The Dark Backward

How often do you see Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, James Caan, Wayne Newton and Lara Flynn Boyle in the same film? Never again, if fate is kind. Director Adam Rifkin wrote the script for this comedy six years ago when he was nineteen. The result would be more excusable if he had written it nineteen years ago when he was six.

The plot concerns Marty Malt (Nelson), a nerdy garbageman who moonlights as a stand-up comic. Nobody laugha at Marty's jokes, except his buddy Gus (Bill Paxton), but then Gus likes screwing grossly obese women and licking a nude corpse he finds at the dump.

Like Marty's romance with the waitress Rosarita (Boyle), his career is going nowhere. Then a small lump on his back grows into an arm. Dr. Scurvy (Caan) covers it with bandages, but Marty's third limb forces itself into his act. The slimy agent Jackie Chrome (Newton) signs Marty, and the slimier talent scout Dirk Delta (Lowe, with a hooknose and buckteeth) books him on TV. Marty's jokes still fall flat. He gets by on freak appeal.

Rifkin might be hoping the same thing for his movie. Fat chance. Instead of the high satire of How to Get Ahead in Achertising (in which a boil on Richard E. Grant's neck grows into a talking head), Rifkin has conjured up a new low in cinematic ineptitude.

From The Archives Issue 467: February 13, 1986
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